Australian Readers Challenge 2006

Australian Readers Challenge 2006


In March 2006, members of the Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Booksellers Association will join forces with The Fred Hollows Foundation and Ian Thorpe's Fountain for youth Trust to launch the Australian Readers' Challenge (ARC), a national reading event for all Australians that will provide funds to help address the drastically low literacy levels in some Indigenous communities in Australia.

The Australian Readers' Challenge is a simple, practical and worthwhile project that Australians of all ages can participate in - from preschoolers to adults. Readers can participate individually or in a group, such as a school, family, book club, company, service club or professional group. Readers can also participate on their own terms - they can read and complete the Challenge at their own pace.

To join the 2006 Australian Readers' Challenge, participants pay $5 to register on the Australian Readers' Challenge website, where they are challenged to read ten books. Seven of the ten books must come from specially prepared booklists that have been selected by an ARC panel of authors, educators and booksellers, so they are suitable for the reading age and broad tastes of all participants. The Challenge commences on Wednesday, 1 March 2006, and books must be read by Friday, 1 September 2006. Readers who successfully complete the Australian Readers' Challenge receive a certificate signed by Ian Thorpe.

The Australian Readers' Challenge has grown from the successful Queensland-based Riverbend Readers' Challenge (RRC) which has been running for two years. In 2004, its first year, the Challenge was taken up by schools and readers of all ages, and over 38 000 books were read, raising enough funds to purchase $50 000 worth of books for some of the remote communities to the east of Katherine in the Northern Territory. The second Challenge has just been completed. The project has been a partnership between Ian Thorpe's Fountain for youth Trust, The Fred Hollows Foundation and the Jawoyn Association, and is supported by many publishers and booksellers. The 2005 Riverbend Readers' Challenge is currently under way.

Jeff McMullen, CEO of Ian Thorpe's Fountain for youth Trust, says, 'The Australian Readers' Challenge aims to highlight the educational crisis in Indigenous Australia, where illiteracy rates are as high as 93% and educational attainment is often lower than in many Third World countries. It provides practical support for the good work going on in schools and helps Aboriginal communities improve learning in preschools, primary schools, women's centres and community centres.'

Suzy Wilson, founder of the Australian Readers' Challenge, says the national launch in 2006 will allow more people to become involved and help their fellow Australians. Wilson believes that 'the profile of books and reading will be increased everywhere and all Australian readers can support and encourage others in a favourite pastime, improve their own reading skills and knowledge, knowing that they'll be helping other Australian children to learn how to read.'

Organisations involved in the Australian Readers' Challenge

Australian Booksellers Association

The Australian Booksellers Association is committed to the Australian Readers' Challenge and is actively working to involve ABA members in the project. Since the project started in Queensland the ABA has generously provided administration assistance throughout the project. The ABA plays an integral role, particularly in the second phase of the Challenge, by working with the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Jawoyn communites to co-ordinate the selection, ordering, purchase and distribution of the books chosen for those communities in the Northern Territory.

Australian Publishers Association

A number of Australian publishers are contributing to, and are sponsors of, the Australian Readers' Challenge. In addition, many publishers have been extremely generous in offering to take on jobs such as financial management; free freighting of books to communities; graphic design; publicity, marketing and distribution of posters, fliers etc.; liaising with other industry bodies, and other jobs associated with administering the Australian Readers' Challenge. Many publishers are providing higher than average discounts to allow the Australian Booksellers Association to get 'more for their money' when purchasing books for the Challenge.

The Fred Hollows Foundation

There is a critical link between the health crisis decimating remote Indigenous communities and widespread illiteracy and innumeracy in those same communities. Impoverishment and lack of nutrition puts Indigenous children at a disadvantage from birth while, in contrast, improvements in literacy around the world have been shown to bring dramatic changes to health, employment and wellbeing. The Foundation is working with its local partners to improve conditions so that Indigenous children have the same opportunities as other Australians. This is being achieved by providing the communities with relevant and targeted books and learning materials, more equipment for the schools, and tutors to work alongside teachers to give pupils more individual attention.

Ian Thorpe's Fountain for youth Trust

Ian Thorpe is championing the Australian Readers' Challenge to promote literacy for all Australian children while focusing attention on the urgent needs of Indigenous children in remote communities. Established in 2000, ITFFyT raises funds to assist in the treatment of sick children and research into childhood illness. With Federal Government funding and public support, ITFFyT is working with the Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation and Northern Territory schools to introduce early learning resources in women's centres and literacy backpacks full of good reading material for Aboriginal students in the Jawoyn schools. ITFFyT also funds health education for Aboriginal children in these areas.